Native Odyssey: Tackling the Utah Cutthroat Slam

Eighteen species in two months across 10 states is one of the more challenging feats I have attempted to accomplish in my lifetime; and Utah posed as quite the challenge. But it’s OK, because the challenge is what keeps us fisherman coming back for more.

We arrived in Utah in search of the Utah Cutthroat Slam, a new program that encourages anglers to catch all four subspecies of cutthroat trout in Utah—Yellowstone, Bear River, Colorado River, and Bonneville. A late spring lead to late run-off and high waters. We had arrived a little too early to dominate the fisheries, but nothing’s impossible.

Paul Burnett, a Trout Unlimited staffer, lead us to a barrier on Strawberry Creek in pursuit of Bonneville cutthroat trout. We fished just below the barrier and … mission accomplished. In the fast, deep, and well-oxygenated water just below the barrier I caught a 14-inch Bonneville cutthroat trout on a rubber legged tweaker nymph. I watched him come out of a pillow and flash on my fly twice before I got the hook set. Third time’s the charm, they say.

A quarter of our goal had been acquired, but there was still a lot of work to be done. On the final stretch, of the final hour, we made a plan to divide and conquer. Half the crew headed up to Wyoming to gather supplies and set up camp, while the rest of us stayed back on a pursuit for Bear River cutthroat trout. Bear River cutthroat trout, a subspecies that had eluded us up to this point, came out to play in full throttle.

We fished the crystal clear water off the right hand fork of the Logan River. The pristine visibility and exceptional numbers of fish made for successful revenge upon the challenging state of Utah. Upon arrival, we hiked up to a pool that was loaded with trout slurping an assortment of bugs off the surface and we each managed to knock off a handful. They were a beautiful strain of cutthroat with red gills, tangy fins, and large, black spots assorted across their body.

Across the course of the past few weeks I have worked diligently to attain a stronger understanding for trout fisheries as I transition from salt to fresh water. After the initial pool, I strayed off on my own and pursued Bear River cutthroat trout independently, and it was very satisfying to accomplish. There was a big pocket under a fallen tree, and I cast an elk-hair caddis over the water. Every cast, I pulled a Bear River cutty out of the pool, and then continued to take a few selfies with them before they swam off strong.

Although we didn’t have a chance to catch the entire slam throughout our time in Utah, the species did not go unseen and were caught throughout other portions of our adventure.

— Heather Harkavy

By Chris Hunt.